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November 16, 2008

The Road To 44

How did Obama do it? I bet you there will be books still being published that describe the ins and outs of this marathon election season long after the principals and voters have shuffled off this mortal coil. Chief credit, in my mind, must go to Bush, our Wrecker-In-Chief for the past eight years. You sir, deserve thanks for creating the perfect shitstorm that forced Americans to collectively look beyond the fog of media, reach deep into their wallets and find - nothing - thereby allowing our desire for economic security and general competence to overpower centuries of cultural and racial divisions, if only for a moment. That's right - Obama may well be Dubya's greatest legacy to the nation.

As The Onion put it:

Nation Finally Shitty Enough To Make Social Progress

WASHINGTON—After emerging victorious from one of the most pivotal elections in history, president-elect Barack Obama will assume the role of commander in chief on Jan. 20, shattering a racial barrier the United States is, at long last, shitty enough to overcome.

As for how Obama actually ran his campaign, there are several great articles making the rounds now:

  • Obama's Brain Trust: Rolling Stone talks about how Obama first put together his team.
  • Battle Plans: Ryan Lizza, from the New Yorker, details Obama's strategy for winning.
  • How He Did It: apparently, Newsweek had a dedicated team of reporters embedded in both campaigns during the entire election cycle. This team was not allowed to publish or share anything until the elections had passed. This is their coverage.

Finally, a joke from Al Giordano to round out this post:

One sunny day in late January, 2009 an old man approached the White House from Across Pennsylvania Avenue, where he'd been sitting on a park bench.

He spoke to the U.S. Marine standing guard and said, "I would like to go in and meet with President Bush."

The Marine looked at the man and said, "Sir, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here."

The old man said, "Okay", and walked away.'

The following day, the same man approached the White House and said to the same Marine, "I would like to go in and meet with President Bush."

The Marine again told the man, "Sir, as I said yesterday, Mr. Bush is no longer president and no longer resides here."

The man thanked him and, again, just walked away.

The third day, the same man approached the White House and spoke to the very same U.S. Marine, saying "I would like to go in and meet with President Bush."

The Marine, understandably agitated at this point, looked at the man and said, "Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Bush. I've told you already that Mr. Bush is no longer the president and no longer resides here. Don't you understand?"

The old man looked at the Marine and said, "Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it."

The Marine snapped to attention, saluted, and said, "See you tomorrow, Sir."


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- November 16, 2008 4:00 PM // Politics

November 2, 2008

Chaiwalla

Think of an Indian chaiwalla and the following images come to mind:

and

In an interesting twist, a cousin of Shari's, Neil Sanyal, decided to upmarket the idea and open his own version in tony Hampstead, London. I found mentions of it in a bunch of places including The Telegraph in Kolkata:

BREWING MAGIC: Chaiwalla, the teashop

Tea, anyone?

A challenge to the Starbucks coffee culture has been mounted in Hampstead in north London by Neil Sanyal, who was born in Britain and educated at St Paul’s School but whose parents and grandparents come from Calcutta.

In March this year he set up Chaiwalla, a teashop which has just been named runner-up by Time Out London in its “Best Tea Room” competition.

Neil, who is 19, has sought to create the atmosphere of adda in Calcutta. “When walking into Chaiwalla it is like stepping straight into a part of Calcutta from the bustling streets of Hampstead Village.”

Whilst searching for ideas in India to bring back to London, he was drawn to the chai drinking culture in Calcutta. “Here, many millions of people drank chai, purchased from road-side chaiwallas, in disposable clay cups that are smashed after use. My idea was to create an Indian alternative to the western coffee shop, as well as importing hand-made clay cups from West Bengal.”

Ah yes, those clay cups. Where would desi tea be without them? Here's how they're made:

Here's what some final versions look like:

And here's how they're recycled:

This is the UK version:

Neil's brainchild has a website and offers much more than just masala tea. You can find free wifi, sisa, an extensive breakfast and lunch menu (including biriyani), kulfi, desi sweets and fruit smoothies. Oh yeah, love the external setup as well:

Though I don't drink tea very much myself (or coffee for that matter), I find the whole endeavor extremely interesting starting from the way we heard about it. We first got word about Chaiwalla from internal family sources and not in a particularly effusive way either. As in what's the son of bhadralok (Bengali term for middle class gentlemen) doing opening a tea store? Shouldn't he be slogging his butt off in engineering or medicine or something?

This is something I've heard throughout my life - if you walk the chosen path of computers and doctorhood and engineering, the Goddess Laxmi will shower her largesse upon you. You'll get all that and a 500SEL Benz. However, woe betide you if you stray. The Lord Vishnu himself cannot save you from the Bengali middle class "chee chee" styled derision. Sometimes I wonder how we produce any artists or entrepreneurs at all. So, it's great to see someone bucking the trend and going their own way. Looking forward to Chaiwalla going international and opening a branch in San Francisco, preferably next to the Bollyhood Cafe in the Mission district. It's only fitting. Bangla represent!


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- November 2, 2008 3:14 PM // Bangla , Diaspora , Food